Do you know what toxins are lurking in your environment? The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine issued a joint committee opinion paper in September requesting policy changes by the government after uncovering evidence that environmental toxins are increasingly becoming a high-level threat to female reproductive health.

In a case study of the manufacturing and processing industries over the last seven years, researchers estimated that 84,000 chemicals are currently in use and 700 new chemicals are added every year in the United States. And, unfortunately, many of these chemicals are released for use without adequate research to determine their impact on the health of any living thing - humans, plants or animals.

Exposure to toxic chemicals is difficult to avoid. These chemicals end up in the air, water, soil, food and even household products. Research has shown that numerous chemicals impact individuals of all ages, causing behavioral disorders and hormonal imbalances. In the last several years, consumers have been warned by environmental and health advocates to heed caution when it comes to toxins in their environment. The rise in environmental chemicals directly correlates with the rise in certain conditions and diseases – such as breast cancer, autism and infertility.

The opinion paper suggested that health professionals carefully screen their patients for past exposure to toxins. This may help minimize damage and determine better treatment plans for a healthy pregnancy and women seeking to get pregnant. It is also believed to improve awareness among patients and health care professionals.

But, knowing how to limit exposure isn’t something you have to learn at your next doctor’s appointment. There are small habits you can change now to ensure you and your family reduce your risk of toxic chemical exposure:

Read labels. If the ingredient list is more than four or five ingredients and/or you can’t pronounce most of the ingredients, don’t buy it. Dangerous chemicals are hiding in plain sight – you just have to know what to look for. Triclosan, parabens, phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA) are some of the most well-known chemical dangers found in many household products. However, you can find a more extensive list on the Environmental Working Group’s website.

• Go organic. Choose fresh, organic meats, fruits and vegetables whenever possible. To truly minimize chemical exposure, find your local farmers’ market and make your selections there on a routine basis. The less distance your food has to travel, the less exposure to chemicals it requires. Even organic foods in the supermarket have to undergo some processing for preservation to make it safe for transport.

• Eliminate chemicals. Cosmetics and water have dominated the media coverage when it comes to risk of toxic exposure; however there are many other daily products that contribute to toxicity. Toxins from canned goods, scented perfumes and air fresheners, antibacterial products and household cleaners can interfere with the production and function of key hormones – such as cortisol, insulin, testosterone, progesterone and estrogen. Make your own cleaners with lemon juice and vinegar, or create air fresheners with all-natural essential oils and water.

• Drink filtered water from BPA- free bottles. Bottled water is not heavily regulated, and bottled water manufacturers do not have to publish the results of testing. There is no guarantee your bottled water is safe for consumption, no matter how fancy the label or expensive the price. Use water filters and choose glass or metal water bottles to reduce exposure to BPA.

• Don’t microwave in plastics or other unmarked containers. If a plastic container is marked “microwave safe,” the FDA requires testing prior to the approval. Unmarked containers from restaurants should not be microwaved – this is true for glass, ceramic and paper containers as well. Some studies actually suggest that chemical migration from plastics can occur regardless of temperature change or exposure to microwaves, so glass, metal and paper are better choices for transporting and storing food, regardless of heat exposure.